As the Pages of Sheet Music & YA Romance Turn: Cliffhanger Press Presents Ashley Maker’s Under the Trees

The love I feel for him

is buried between the sheets,

each note strikes a chord

between my heartbeats.



UNDER THE TREES is a new YA historical romance being published by Cliffhanger Press in fall 2014.  As writers, we sometimes can hear a certain song playing in our heads as our characters go through a pivotal scene in their lives.  Ashley Maker has taken it a step further.  Her connection with her characters and the mood of the story has inspired her to write music to go along with her novel. Part Medieval, Part Regency Era, all adolescent angst and first love, UNDER THE TREES is a YA masterpiece that will usher in new dimensions and dynamics of what it is to fight for the freedom to be and to love.

Image taken from Google Images

Image taken from Google Images




Love can’t stay hidden forever.

Book Blurb

Fleeing from an abusive arranged marriage, Princess Araya lands at the mercy of the impulsive Crown Prince Thoredmund, who shelters and teachers her survival skills in a secluded forest. As the fragile alliance between their kingdoms deteriorates, Thor and Araya must decide if staying together is worth starting a war.



Meet Ashley Maker

Armed with a keyboard, microphone, and an energetic imagination, Ashley Maker is a combination author/songwriter from Oklahoma with a passion for all things creative. UNDER THE TREES, a Young Adult blended historical romance, is her debut novel, releasing from Cliffhanger Press, LLC in the fall of 2014. Songs inspired by the book can be heard from Seeking Never, the recording band she sings in with her guitar-playing husband Corey. A newbie vlogger and former editor, Ashley spends much of her time writing, procrastinating on social media, and waging a revision war against pronouns. The rest of her time is spent doting on her daughter and cuddling with a myriad of family pets, most notably Johnny Cash, cat writing buddy extraordinaire.



Connect with Ashley Maker!



Author Website (still under construction):

Author Facebook:



Wattpad:     Ashley Maker

Instagram:  ashleymakerwrites


Check out Cliffhanger Press’ blog post, “Deep Within the Staffs, Between the Notes, Inside the Written Lines Lies a YA Story That Only Ashley Maker Can Tell,” which delves deeper into the life and work of Ashley Maker:



How many of you remember your first love? Would you risk kingdoms falling apart or rebel against anyone or anything to keep it?



When Art & Poets Have a Conversation (poetry)


Image by Lisa Hess Hesselgrave

This poem is a response to the poem written by Maureen Doallas—



You are where you don’t belong

Hands tied behind a dollhouse chair

A captured Alice in Wonderland

screaming at the top of your lungs

“Off with their heads!”

Only the rag doll, strung out

on the table draped in chapel white sheets

gives a damn

The stepmother hovers over you

She is the reincarnation of

Hansel and Gretel’s captor.

She has no time for your antics

You will stay there

until the sunlight filtering

through the white curtain

fades to black

until the Jack in the Beanstalk tree

dangles shadowy leaves

all over your pretty in pink walls

until you realize

that your parents’ divorce

is really final

and happily ever after

just doesn’t happen

in real life




Image done by Lisa Hess Hesselgrave

Image done by Lisa Hess Hesselgrave


Little avenger

ties on his cape, all ready

to save a freckled face

next door neighbor crush

from under the bed monsters

blowing goodnight kisses.

The Healing Power of My Grandmother’s Hands

Image Taken from Google Images

Image Taken from Google Images


As a little girl, the open road was my magic carpet. It lured me out of my surroundings. The car crossed the Duval county line, and I felt free.

One Sunday, I traveled to my godmother’s childhood home after we attended church. Red clay dust threaded itself through the fence. Laughter crackled from the picnic tables.

I flitted around the front yard and captured snatches of conversations. I pocketed them, those lulls and inflections along the Southern exchange.

A man with a scraggly beard and a paperboy hat cocked to the side entertained a bevy of gentlemen. He guzzled a steady succession of Colt 45 beer. A cigarette dangled from his lips.

His bony finger beckoned me. I bounced over to him, my ponytails tapping in synchronized beats against my scalp. As I stood in front of him with my open-toed sandals, he shook his ashes on my pinky toe.   I cried out in pain.

“Maybe it will burn the ugly off of you,” the old man said and crushed the butt on top of his can. His quip seized his audience with a fit of cackling.

The skin blistered. I thought scars only came from falls off bicycles or during hopscotch or dodge ball. Not this.

Later that summer, the open road summoned me again. Daddy vacationed every year at my grandmother’s house in Mississippi. Sometimes the whole family went, but I enjoyed it more when it was just him and me.

Daddy fitted wooden suitcases next to Styrofoam coolers and garment bags inside his Impala. I slid inside, careful to avoid crushing my hand inside the metal door. He cranked the engine, and we were on our way.

I-10 westbound soon connected to a bridge that hovered over the Gulf of Mexico.

Pensacola seemed like an enchanted land. I wished our entrance could slough off the crust of words that old man left all over me.

I resorted to hiding in my bedroom closet or bending my head down so low that I resembled a hooked statue. Maybe that old man shed some light on things that needled me.

Things that I buried liked a soiled cloth I didn’t want anyone to find.

Maybe that’s why a distant family member touched me in places that made me feel uncomfortable. Maybe that’s why some people at my church favored my sister over me.

The brown blot that wouldn’t fade.

Daddy’s singing interrupted my thoughts. We approached the state line separating Georgia from Alabama. Sweat had glued my thighs to the burgundy leather seats.

It was past due for a stop. Mama packed us staples so that we wouldn’t have to buy anything. Daddy slapped the ham and mayonnaise on the bread and scooped up two canned drinks. He managed to keep his tan shorts and Hawaiian print shirt free from stains.

With the windows cracked and our seat belts buckled, we munched and resumed our trip. Pit stops were very few and short. It normally took us over twelve hours to reach Grandma’s house, if we departed at 4:00 a.m. sharp. Daddy mapped out every minute.

Around dusk, we finally arrived.

Peach rose bushes and lawn statues bordered my grandmother’s front yard. Her screened lanai had a porch swing and windows that revealed a sitting room reserved for visitors.

My grandmother waited with open arms. Her laughter was the music of wind chimes. Her eyes twinkled, a hint of playfulness lurking there.

Daddy hugged her first and planted a kiss on her cheek.

Always the strategist that stemmed from his army days, he riddled off a list of things to do. “Mama, I’ll start scraping off that old paint here.”

His arm swept over it in a saluting motion and surveyed the outer perimeter. “Clean the gutters out and help weed the garden out back.”

“Alright,” Grandma said to his back as he ushered the luggage inside.

I tumbled into her, my little pincers tugging at the folds of her flesh. “Hey, Grandma,” I said in my sing-song voice.

She embraced me. The scent of baby powder and cinnamon enveloped me. A soft body pillow filled with potpourri.  She said, “It’s so good to see you.”

Her wrinkled hands traced the contours of my face, her beloved. They washed away my imperfections. It didn’t matter that my toe still throbbed or the gnats nicked at us or the crickets hummed in a blanket of oncoming darkness.

For that moment, my grandmother’s hands loved me.


Flash Fiction Monday: Cutting Corners

cutting corners



The Catfish directors pounded on the screen door.  The right corner of the screen flapped like a wire mesh shade, playing peek-a-boo with the truth hidden inside.  Carlos rocked side to side on the heels of his feet.  He removed his hat and scratched the back of his head furiously.  He kept pulling up the fake FB profile on his smartphone.

Everytime Carlos saw her bow-lipped smile, his stomach did a double flip, bile gurgling in his throat.  Eva was not real.  He was about to meet the real woman.  Carlos was no stranger to the MTV show.  He clenched his fists repeatedly, wondering what the crackerjack box-shaped house held inside.

Was the person even a woman?  Was she overweight?  The birds in the nearby date tree chirped behind him.  To Carlos, it seemed more like they laughed at him like those birds on his son’s favorite movie, Finding Nemo.  David.  He had grown so attached to Eva.  God, he even let this woman into his 4-year-old’s life.  Six months of hour long phone conversations, 3500 FB inbox messages, 5000 texts, and endless Pinterest posts of her dream boards.

Odd questions about what he would do in some town called Headly Rock, CO.  He Googled the city and had never heard of it.  Odd questions about why men behaved like they did on first dates.  Who cared?  Carlos was waiting for their first date to happen.  She always said that the muse was calling and she could not disappoint her.  Carlos wanted to know who this muse was so he could tell her that she needed to back off or get a life.

He felt like a bonafide fool.  What kind of person would do this?


The directors banged on the door again.  Finally, a mousy, 4 ft. 2 woman appeared.  Pencils crisscrossed like chopsticks in her disheveled ponytail.  She cradled a tablet in her hand; a book cover with Eva’s FB profile cover filled the screen.

She flashed her gap-toothed smile and stared into the cameras.  “Hi, I’m Reva Ramone, the author of Eva’s Grace.  My book just came out today.”

Carlos and the directors stood in shock, their mouths open wide like they were elongating an acapella note.




Heal Your Heart Before You Complete Mine–Hazel Robinson’s New Release, Something Missing


Author Interview

1) What makes Something Missing stand out among other romance novels?

For me it stands out because it focuses on real life imperfections and them rolling out those imperfections to find the happy ending everyone deserves. It shows that not every love story has a beginning, middle and end.


2) In your bio, you state that you are a Supernatural fan. Sam & Dean have really had hit and miss relationships throughout the series.  What kind of storyline would create for them to find the perfect love?

OO! I think that Dean should have his happy ever after with his old girlfriend Lisa. I mean he was happy living the normal life with her. It would definitely be him riding up in his car and taking her in his arms moment. He needs someone to take care of him for a change.

For Sam, well, I think he likes to feel like the hero, so for him I think he would need a damsel in distress that he can rescue and then they fall in love. He needs someone funny and strong.
3) What can readers expect from the True Love series?

Well, the True Love series will contain gritty storylines with lots of ups and downs. Some love stories are straightforward and that’s fine, but what about the love stories that go wrong? What about the love stories that don’t come that easily? That’s what the True Love series is–it tells different love stories, each with their own tragedy/heartache; it tells about true love in its pure form. Not just the words ‘I love you’ but the feeling of love and what it does to people.

4) Max & Susan are childhood friends who are embarking on a new romance.  Can friends truly be lovers?

I think that when two people are meant to be together then they will be together, I definitely think that if you have a strong connection with someone it doesn’t matter if you are friends.


5) How would you describe your writing process?

Hhmmm. Well, this book took me a year to write. I spent a lot of late nights (some all-nighters). I would tuck myself away in my invisible box with my music on and just write what came to my mind. I always have a notebook with me and always tuck a pen in my hair!

6) What are five things that a good romance must have?

You need to have a strong connection between your main characters; you can’t just throw them together.

Your reader needs to get butterflies when they read about the first kiss.

Complications are good. No romance is easy in real life; it takes hard work.

I’m a sucker for tragedy in a romance. And of course sex but not overdone, less is sometimes more. You want your imagination to work while you’re reading.
7) How has technology changed romance in real life?

Good old fashioned love letters have been exchanged for texting and emails. There isn’t any romance in technology really. No one sends a bunch of flowers expressing their feelings for someone; they tweet it or change their Facebook status. And in some ways technology can ruin a romance.
8) What tips about the publication process would you give to writers?

Well, I have been lucky enough to have my book published through a publisher. I would advise NEVER give up, get as many contacts as you can, make your book known. It’s not an easy ride; it’s a lot of hard work, long emails and tears. I suggest making a lot of friends on places like Facebook and Twitter, join author and blogger groups; they will help each other out. Also find someone that has a similar style to you and become writing buddies. You will be amazed how much motivation you get for having a writing buddy.






BIOGRAPHY: I’ve always had a passion for reading but over the last several years it has become an obsession, a few months ago I decided to put fingers to keys to keyboard (or pen to paper!) and write “Something Missing” a story I’ve had hidden away in the back of my mind for a long time.


Hazel lives in the small town of Rishton in Lancashire. England, with her husband, three children, two cats, dog, rabbit and lizard. She fills her days dashing between school runs, pets and housework and at night she comes to life either writing or watching her favorite program ‘Supernatural’ (yes she is Supernatural obsessed)

Her road to writing started with a love for paranormal romance novels, and after finding a passion for tragic romance she set out on the mission to share her own story. After long nights writing and a lot of ‘Supernatural’ episodes she is finally ready to share ‘Something Missing’. Hazel loves nothing better than sitting with a cup of tea, a chocolate biscuit and a good book.


SYNOPSIS: When Susan is left orphaned, she begins a harrowing journey through the care system. Left with both mental and physical scars, Susan approaches adulthood with a self-destructive impulse. However, there is hope in the figure of her childhood friend, Max; the first boy she ever kissed.


Now a grown woman, Susan returns to her childhood home of Winchelsea, where she hopes she will find the answer to the gap in her heart that she’s carried with her since she left. With Max by her side, she attempts to find the path her life should have taken, to build a home, to heal old wounds, and to finally create a family that will stop the terrible feeling of something missing.

But Max has a secret, one that risks destroying all hope of a happy ever after, unless they can find a way to heal one another.



AVAILABLE FORMATS: e-Book on and and Paperback available from and (It will be available for other retailers after December 2014.)


EXCERPTS: (1) Susan breathed in deeply; even now the emotions were raw.

“A long time ago he was my best friend; we were inseparable. From the age of like, two, we never went anywhere without each other. When my grandmother died he protected me from the pain. But after the funeral they came to take me away. Max wanted me to run away with him but I said no. We were just children.”




(2) Instead of heading back to the house she went to the beach. She’d spent a lot of time wishing to walk on it again; it held so many happy memories for her. As she walked along the shore, she watched the sun setting in the distance. She thought back to the night she had discovered she had to leave. The memory was painful and she felt a tear slip down her cheek. No one could have imagined what would happen to her when she left, and no one could have stopped it. Not really. Feeling in need of that drink, she turned in the direction of home. That’s when she saw him. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach as the tall, dark-haired man walk towards her.

Max had seen Susan a few times over the weekend, and he had desperately wanted to go over and say something to her, but he hadn’t known what to say. When she’d walked past the garage earlier, he almost plucked up enough courage, but something had stopped him. She looked amazing, way out of his league, but he plucked up the courage now there really was no way of avoiding her.

“Hello!” he said, smiling awkwardly, and stuffing his hands deep into his pockets.




Please contact either

Hazel Robinson at





Kitty Rackham at



Flash Fiction Tuesday: Mistakenly Meant to Be

Mistakenly Meant to Be

A Flash Fiction Story That Finally Broke Through

the Writing Block of Alexandra Caselle




Image found on Google Images

Image found on Google Images


Demeter was startled by the moans that overshadowed her daily scheduled morning ones.  The winter snow fell in clumps of misshapen snowballs, building a half wall in the doorway of the cave. The loss that coated each cry was raw, much deeper than the one she has endured by losing Persephone for a larger portion of every year.  The sound caused the ground to crack in earthquakes and the clouds to hang low in completely undone, out-of-place tornadoes. Nature had become emotionally off-kilter. There was indeed a war going on, a battle where two distinct phenomenon fought for dominion.  Oh, that cry was familiar.  One caused by a member of a Hellenic fraternity.  Demeter quieted her mind and focused on the direction of the sound.  She wrapped the cowhide cover over her shoulders, the flaps roughly tapping against the blood-encrusted wound extended across her chest.  Demeter found Leda, swaddled in swan feathers, two sets of minds struggling for dominance amidst a broken one.  Leda’s eyes begged for a way out.  Demeter didn’t know what to do.  Hell, she had been searching for an exit door out of a depression so deep that it suspended time.  A snowflake sauntered through the air and landed on top of a shiny object.  Demeter smiled when she recognized it. The Fates had left a needle, one that sewed time and hope into any pattern.  She picked it up and sewed stitches inside her heart.  Once she discovered the pattern of healing, Demeter began patching it  inside the network of Leda’s loss.


Together, they will show other women that what was mistaken was definitely meant to be.

Poetry Pic: The Breakthrough

The Breakthrough

A Poem Inspired by a Photograph

Written by Alexandra Caselle





Image found on Google Images, originally on


Each ring, a landmark,

a calling card, a slot of

time where two men bound

by a covenant

broke their rank . Each colored bead,

a makeshift, pint-sized

tombstone, with henna

stained first initials marking

just not the right time,

but the wronged hollow

place of babies lost in her

sea. The white one stood

for a mother entombed

in a hell of her own, a

father locked inside

the hallowed halls

of a once beautiful mind.

Now the morning sun

drags her new lover

out of bed, out of her life

with cumulus clouds

softly whispering

a benediction over

her house. She lights up

the cigar, nicotine

sealing in the broken places,

wisps of smoke streaking

strands like an ex-man’s

rogue. Hardship can bring

all the rain it wants.

She stares at it straight

in its eye because she is–

a perfect storm.